Bishop not guilty of sex offensePublished 6:26pm Wednesday, October 16, 2013
A Beaufort County jury found a local man not guilty of indecent liberties with a child Tuesday.
According to an October 2011 press release from the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, Anthony Allen Bishop, then living in Grimesland, was arrested after it was reported he had inappropriately touched a female under the age of 16. At the time of the report, Bishop was 32 years old.
Tuesday’s trial had the defendant, the plaintiff and the plaintiff’s mother testifying as to the events of Oct. 10 of that year.
“What you’re going to hear from the witness stand is one person versus another in the account of the events of that evening,” defense attorney Norma Laughton said in her opening statement. “You’re going to have to weigh the credibility of each.”
On the night of the reported incident, the 15-year-old plaintiff told the court she was hanging out at home with her mother’s boyfriend, a cousin and Bishop — who was described as both a neighbor and family friend — while her mother worked a night shift. According to the plaintiff’s testimony, it was after the cousin went to bed, and the boyfriend left the room, that Bishop touched her inappropriately. The witness indicated she was too shocked and scared to immediately put a stop to the incident.
On cross-examination, Laughton questioned why it took the plaintiff several days to tell her mother about the incident.
“Because I felt like it was my fault because I didn’t say no, and no one would believe me because he was a friend of the family,” the now 17-year-old answered.
Bishop testified in his defense and told the jury no incident occurred at all on Oct. 10, 2011. He said by that time, his relationship with his neighbors had broken down because of an unrelated issue having to do with the title to a truck traded for rent owed to the plaintiff’s grandfather, who owned the mobile home he was renting. Bishop said the only time he had touched the plaintiff was during “horseplay,” in which all members of the household engaged.
“(The plaintiff) was scared that this was her fault and we wouldn’t believe her and here we are,” Assistant District Attorney Matthew Rice told the jury during closing arguments. “This is your call based on what you heard here.”
To be found guilty of taking indecent liberties with a child, a person must be at least 16 years old; a victim must be under the age of 16, and at least five years younger than the defendant; and it must be proven that the act was done with “the purpose of arousing or gratifying a sexual desire.”
As in her opening statement, Laughton stressed the lack of evidence against her client. Depending on his prior record level, had Bishop been convicted, he would have faced a maximum of 59 months in prison for the Class F felony.